Toxic workplaces: How to decide if you should leave the job you hate?
Toxic workplaces. They are everywhere.
Covid brought out the worst of toxic bosses and workplaces.
As with any job, there is no such thing as a perfect. How wonderful would that be? But even working for yourself has its downsides and risks.
You aren’t out there looking for the perfect job, but a job that pays good enough and has pleasant enough conditions for you to work in. Everyone has different expectations towards workplaces and different threshold levels when it comes to tolerating “mistreatment”. And of course, we all define mistreatment differently!
Now, I know the impulse to submit that resignation letter is strong. But before you do, let’s take a step back to consider this question:
Are the things you are unhappy about within your control?
Many times, when we face unhappy situations at work, we may come away with a feeling that we can’t do anything about the situation. That we are better off being somewhere else.
First off, “somewhere else” may have other problems that you may find unbearable – cos most corporations and businesses and workplaces suck like that. Secondly, I just personally don’t like to throw in the towel too quickly unless
The only time I’d quit on the spot or before I found another offer is when my physical/mental health is starting to collapse and I’ve experienced abuse – physical, mental, emotional or verbal – at work. I won’t stick around at a place like that.
Of course, your mileage may vary and you may have bills to pay and other financial obligations.
Things pissing you off at work
Many of us have had problematic bosses. The thing is, there are lots of people out there who are in positions managing others because they’ve been there long enough etc, and not because they are GOOD at managing people.
I’ve had lots of bosses in my career path so far, but can only count on one hand, the number of truly great bosses I’ve had.
A good boss? Someone who gives clear expectations/directions, makes time for you, cares about both your well-being and your performance, someone who teaches/mentors/guides you,
Let’s think about what the issue with your boss is. Is it workload? (Common complaint). Contacting you after work hours? Micromanaging? Not being supportive? Abusive? Doesn’t take responsibility?
Think about what is it about your boss that you can tolerate and what are potential dealbreakers for you.
Dealbreakers for me have been:
- Overly abusive – sending long, abusive emails ‘scolding’ their employees
- Perpetuating a culture that is militaristic/acts like he/she is my parent and has a right to talk to me in whatever way they’ve wanted
- Gaslighting behaviour – behaving incredibly aggressively and then turning around and denying their behaviour
- Unpredictable behaviour; treats
- Indirect communication or passive-aggressive behaviour – instead of telling you what you did wrong, they send out an email to everyone describing what pissed them off (true story)
- Refusal to intervene in conflicts or manage uncooperative/problematic subordinates, who then go on to affect everyone else’s work
- Little to no guidance/training, expects you to just magically know what you are supposed to do without any directions, instructions or communication
- Overly controlling and doesn’t allow you to grow, growth is done on their terms and non-negotiable
- Is all about their image. They will do what looks good for them and not what is best for their team
I can tolerate bosses with poor time management, for example. But I can’t tolerate the above behaviour and will probably choose to exit if it goes on for too long. Hiring managers/bosses can really make or break your career and bring out the best in you/train you to your potential. They have alot of say in your job and promotion etc. So if your boss sucks, your life in the company may suck too.
All of us have different tolerance thresholds, so you gotta figure out what are your dealbreakers when it comes to bosses.
So ask yourself – what is within your control? Are you able to have a discussion around some of these issues with your boss? Are you able to take on a different mindset when looking at your boss’s actions. Perhaps he/she has troubles of their own that they aren’t upfront about? Take your boss’s personality and management style into consideration when you are thinking about having open discussions like this.
Some of us can get by with absolutely shitty bosses, but most of us cannot. This is because reporting managers/bosses wield a significant influence over your day to day, and they’d be the one appraising you.
So if your boss is contributing alot to the pain you are experiencing at work, do consider looking at other jobs.
This can be tough to figure out sometimes because some of us don’t really get to meet with our potential colleagues until our first day at work. Some of us would have met them during the interview rounds. When I have the opportunity to do this, I do look out for how people are behaving towards me.
Also, some people make nice colleagues but not actually great team-mates. I think in my entire career so far, I’ve only been in 2-3 really high-performing, all-rounded teams where everyone pulled their weight and there wasn’t any freeloaders/slackers, lazy people with attitudes etc.
Every other team I’ve been in has had one of these types of people.
If you are someone that values relationships or values getting work done well in a team, having a good team/colleagues may mean alot to you.
So if this area of work is starting to get to you – you may want to ask yourself. Is the behaviour itself toxic (i.e. abusive, bullying behaviour that singles you out?). Is it possible to speak to someone about it? If you have spoken to someone about it, has there been any improvements?
The thing about team-mates/colleagues is – you can’t really change them or do much about them. They are always gonna be there, until they leave the organisation. Putting up with weird quirks and idiosyncrasies is something you have to do sometimes, just to get along with others.
Nature of work
It took me awhile to realise this, but you got to at least somewhat like the field that you are working in. You don’t have to love it or feel immense passion for it, and you don’t have to like ALL of it, but you’ve gotta like some of it.
Because if you don’t, it’s gonna be hella miserable. Trust me. Cause I’ve been there. And it really isn’t fun.
If nothing about your industry or your work makes you like it, you are basically not engaged in whatever you are doing in your day to day. You will be surrounded by information and conversations that are all about your industry.
Take me for example. I’ve worked in different industries before. I went from organisational behaviour research to policy research. You’d think, research is research and it’s all the same everywhere right?
Yeah, no. No it isn’t. I made that assumption, jumped into policy research and hated every single day of my job. Not only did I not care about any policies, the nature of the work meant having to always work with government officers – something I truly hate. I mean, I rather stab myself in the eyes than deal with any of those people. It also meant working with an incredible amount of red tape/bureaucracy/structure/control.
Some people may love it, but I don’t. In fact I hated it so damn much that no amount of pay could make me want to stay in that role and that industry.
So you gotta at least not actively dislike what you are being exposed to daily, because if you do, it’s gonna be a dreadful 9-5.
If you are ever thinking of changing industries, make sure that you get enough information on the industry you are jumping into to make a proper informed choice.
Oof. This, my friend, is a tough one to change, unless you work in a place that has only 10 people or less, organisations would already be defined by their own type of culture.
Even if you try to suss out the culture at the interview rounds, it can be quite hard to determine until you step into the organisation. In this instance you may want to focus on the positives of your workplace.
Perhaps they have a culture of working long hours, but they balance it out by giving people the flexibility and being generous with employees taking time off work. Or they have an extroverted culture but understand that some people may not want to take part etc.
There is no perfect workplace culture, so sometimes you gotta focus more on the positives and allow that to carry you through.
Sometimes when a job becomes unbearable, we feel that we need to leave immediately. But before you do, take a step back and re-assess things again. Can you change some things that are in your control? Could you alter your perspective a little?
If you can, you may start to feel that things are shifting for you. Sometimes, all it takes is a shift in perspective to see a change in our energy and attitudes. Even people start responding to us differently. So try to assess what is within your control and if you can start changing your outlook on your worklife. Who knows, you could decide to stay on for awhile.
Wishing you the best in navigating this job thing. It’s not easy, I know! But you are never alone.
With 10 years of experience as a Researcher (MSc) in Psychology, Neuroscience, Mental Health, Consumer and Organisational Behaviour; I help action-oriented, time-strapped people and solopreneurs crush their inner critics, navigate toxic workplaces and relationships and build their self-esteem so that you can have the freedom, happiness and confidence you desire. I spend the rest of my time daydreaming and downing cups of tea/coffee – my life’s vice. Ask me any question and I will answer it in a post.